The Cleveland Shade Tree Board announced earlier this week that it had found a winner for its very first “Big Old Tree” contest to find the largest tree in Cleveland.
A 130-foot-tall red oak located at 3635 North Ocoee St., near the intersection of North Ocoee Street, Blythe Ferry Road and Ocoee Crossing, was chosen as the winner. The tree sits in the front yard of City Council member Dale Hughes.
Runners-up were located on Centenary Avenue and 8th Street.
Cleveland Urban Forester Dan Hartman said the contest was started as a way to teach people about the need to preserve trees.
“We’re bringing attention to all the trees around Cleveland to show them that you have to keep them around a long time for them to get this big,” Hartman said.
Hartman said he estimated the winning tree to be somewhere between 180 and 220 years old. In addition to the height of 130 feet, the tree had a branch spread of 108 feet and a trunk circumference of 229 inches, about 19 feet.
The city’s Arbor Day celebration will take place Friday at 11 a.m. at the winning tree’s address. The event is open to the public and will also be an opportunity to celebrate Cleveland becoming a “Tree Trifecta City.” The term was coined by state Rep. Kevin Brooks and was meant to signify that Cleveland had received three tree-related titles — “Tree City USA,” “Tree Line USA” and “Tree Campus USA,” which represent recognitions by the Arbor Day Foundation to the city of Cleveland, Cleveland Utilities and Cleveland State Community College respectively.
Tree board member Janice Cheek announced the “Big Old Tree” winner at a Cleveland City Council meeting earlier this week, and said she was glad the tree was found in a place where people can see it often.
“What I especially love is that this ‘Big Old Tree’ lives on a spot passed by thousands of drivers each day,” Cheek said.
She said she had read a statistic from the Tennessee Department of Transportation saying around 37,000 drivers use North Ocoee Street daily. The tree can be viewed from the road, and Cheek said a sign labeling it as the contest winner would be placed in front of it.
Hartman expressed hope the event would teach people about the benefits of preserving trees in the community, saying that trees’ vital functions include filtering the air and releasing more oxygen into it, absorbing excess rainwater, stabilizing soil and providing shade and privacy.
Though Arbor Day often brings with it the urging to plant more trees, some people may not want to bother because it can take many years for a sapling to become a large shade tree. However, Hartman said some of the benefits trees can provide happen as soon as a tree’s roots “get established” in the ground, usually within a year or two. As the community celebrates the “Big Old Tree,” he said he hopes people will be encouraged to preserve the trees they have, and consider planting new ones.
“I’ve heard it said the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago,” Hartman said. “But you’ve got to start sometime. We’ve got to keep the environment clean for future generations.”